How much does it cost to run the North West Air Ambulance Charity? Our charity needs to raise in excess of £9.5million each year to meet the costs of maintaining our existing service to ensure we can be there when needed. We receive no government funding or National Lottery gifts, we are solely reliant on the generosity of our supporters and members.

Why don’t you receive any government funding? There are a number of regional air ambulances in the UK that are all charity funded. Being charity funded allows the North West Air Ambulance Charity to go above and beyond in providing pre-hospital emergency care and treatment to the people in the North West. With support from the public, groups and organisations, we can continue to be there during times of need. With you here for us today, we can be there for you tomorrow!


How many missions do you do each day? On average we attend over 2,000 missions a year; approximately 6 missions each day. Some days are busier than others as are different times of the year – the spring is particularly busy as many people get back to our active hobbies once the nice weather arrives. Boxing Day can also be busy with people enjoying their new toys.

How do you get called out to a mission? Is there a number we have to call? Your local air ambulance is tasked by the North West Ambulance Service control desk. In any emergency, dial 999 and the call handler will take all the relevant details which determine if the North West Air Ambulance Charity is required (if the patient needs rapid response and/or is in a hard to reach location our crews will be called into action). We also transfer patients from local hospitals to the most appropriate hospital where they are in urgent need of rapid specialist treatment.

What is the process when the control centre receives 999 call? A dispatcher sits in the 999 control room and reviews every call code coming in. They are trained to recognise trauma codes which include cardiac arrest and head injuries. It is these trauma incidents that the North West Air Ambulance Charity may potentially be called out to. The dispatcher will then dispatch one of our aircrafts accordingly if it is needed. All North West Air Ambulance Charity HEMS crew are required to work alongside dispatchers by working one to two shifts a month. This is part of their ongoing training as a HEMS paramedic.

What equipment do you carry that is different to a land ambulance? Our three aircraft are equipped with everything that is found on board a land ambulance.

Does the North West Air Ambulance Charity fly at night? We currently fly during daylight hours only. Visibility is dramatically reduced outside of daylight hours and the safety of our crew, patients and the public is naturally paramount.

How long does it take you to get to an incident? North West Air Ambulance Charity has three aircraft located in Manchester and Blackpool to ensure rapid response to incidents across the North West. Most locations can be reached from between 5 – 20 minutes depending on location and the weather.

Who makes the decision as to which hospital you fly to? This decision is made by all members of crew on board (pilots, doctor and paramedics). Doctors and paramedics will review the patient’s injuries and assess if time or a specialist centre is more important, whereas pilots will examine weather conditions, distance and speed to ensure the swiftest journey.

What are the principle hospitals that your crew flies to? We aim to fly patients to the most appropriate hospital to ensure the best possible treatment for their injuries. For example;

  • Major trauma site – Royal Preston Hospital
  • Neuro sites – Aintree University Hospital, Salford Royal Hospital, Royal Preston Hospital
  • Cardiac centres – Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Broadgreen Hospital, Cumberland Infirmary, Manchester Royal, University Hospital of South Manchester
  • Burns centres – University Hospital of South Manchester, Whiston Hospital
  • Children’s hospitals – Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital

Which hospitals have helicopter pads? Royal Preston Hospital, Royal Blackburn Hospital, University of South Manchester Hospital, and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital all have ‘primary pads’ – this means the landing pads are linked to the hospital and are only a ‘trolley push’ away. Those hospitals without landing pads have ‘secondary landing sites’ – this means the patient would require a land ambulance to transfer them to the hospital from the landing pad. These locations are pre-reconciled by our pilots and are in areas that are well known to the crews such as large fields where a land ambulance would be waiting prior to our landing to take the patient to hospital. For example; Aintree University Hospital uses Aintree Racecourse, Broadgreen Hospital uses Thomas Lane Playing Fields.

Why don’t all hospitals have helipads? Due to the location of many hospitals, land is limited which makes having a helipad at every hospital a challenge. It can cost a lot of money to build and maintain a helipad, particularly if it has to be located on top of a building. Our charity raises money to ensure our helicopters can operate across the North West and we can not fund helipads at each hospital. However, we are working closely with our hospital partners to support them where possible to ensure we can get our patients from scene to emergency departments as quickly as possible.

How do we record missions? We record ‘callouts’ on a system at our bases. In 2014/2015 we were called out to 2,334 missions. This figure also includes times that the crew were ‘stood down’ (when the air ambulance is called out but advised that it is no longer required once the patient has been assessed by land ambulance crews) or completed hospital transfers.

Our helicopters

What aircraft do you use and how many people can you carry? We have three EC135 air craft. These small efficient aircraft ensure we can get to incidents quickly and land in tight spaces safely as they are small and light. The efficiencies we make in being rapid mean space is limited on board but we carry all the vital equipment we need. Two of our aircraft have one pilot on board and specially trained Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) paramedics. One of our aircraft has one pilot, one HEMS paramedic and a HEMS doctor on board. Each aircraft can carry one patient lying down on a stretcher.

How fast do your helicopters travel? Flying at speeds of up to 150mph we can give the gift of time, saving the vital minutes needed to make a difference to a precious life.

Can we see inside the helicopters? As a live emergency service, our crews have to ensure they are ready for action as soon as a call comes in. Sadly, this means we can not facilitate ad hoc visits. Occasionally we will host an open day and behind the scenes sessions – keep an eye on our events calendar and social media for these.

What equipment do you carry that is different to a land ambulance? Our helicopters are kitted out with the most advanced lifesaving equipment to give patients the best chance of survival. The equipment on board is almost exact to what you’d have within a land ambulance, such as a ventilation unit, suction unit, vacuum mattress, patient monitor and defibrillator.

Does the North West Air Ambulance Charity fly at night? We currently fly during daylight hours only. Visibility is dramatically reduced outside of daylight hours and the safety of our crew, patients and the public is naturally paramount.

Our crew

What level of qualification does a HEMS Paramedic need? HEMS stands for Helicopter Emergency Medical Service. HEMS paramedics are seconded from North West Ambulance Service (known as NWAS) but have to be employed by NWAS for at least three years prior to applying. Paramedics apply to become a HEMS paramedic and ask to be released to NWAA for a two year secondment. If paramedics want to stay on with the North West Air Ambulance Charity, they must re-apply every two years. HEMS training involves a two week course where crew are taught aircraft skills. The crew then go on board the aircraft to observe for a further three weeks and it is there where the crew learn how to co-pilot, use navigation skills and how to understand the weather.

Fundraising and donations

I have some items for your shops – where do I take them? With a number of outlets throughout the North West we are always grateful for items to be donated. Visit nwaa.net/retail for your local North West Air Ambulance Charity Shop. Alternatively, if you have more than three bags for collection we can arrange for our driver to collect from your home, visit nwaa.net/book-collection-2/ to arrange a booking.

I have a collection tin that is full, what do I do with it? We are always grateful for people raising money at their organisation with a collection tin. If your tin is full, please email fundraising@nwaa.net  providing your name, address and contact number so we can arrange a collection.

My organisation would like to learn more about your work, how do we find out more? To learn more about your North West Air Ambulance Charity, you can book one of our speakers to visit you and deliver a presentation. Visit Host a Presentation for more information.

I’m a lottery member but my details have changed – who do I contact? Email your name, contact number and postcode – your lottery membership number too if you know this to lottery@nwaa.net

I have sent a donation but it has not been banked yet – have you received it? We aim to respond to donations within three days of receipt. If you have kindly sent a donation to our charity and are waiting on a letter of thanks, please email supporterservices@nwaa.net with your name, address, post code and gift amount so they can update you on your donation.

To sign up to our e-newsletter, please enter your details below: